Monday, September 7, 2009

American Meadow Garden - Grass Guru John Greenlee at The Late Show Gardens

Gentle paths wind through John Greenlee's
The Mediterranean Meadow
A Garden Installation at Cornerstone Sonoma
Greenlee's design for 'The Mediterranean Meadow'' takes its cue from the prairies that once blanketed the Sonoma landscape.

Greenlee weaves together grasses and sedges in a palette of soft hues and contrasting textures, in alliance with California poppies. Shifting with the changing seasons and the sky above, the garden's naturalistic style exhibits an atmosphere colored by the weather or time of day: Its contours subdued on an overcast morning; aglow in the setting sun; or brillantly basking in the sapphire haze of a summer afternoon.

Greenlee’s plant selections were chosen to fit the Cornerstone site’s heavy soils, hot summers, and windy conditions; taking into account that the garden is sited on a septic mound!

Used on walkways: Carex pansa "makes a fine natural lawn,"
according to The American Meadow Garden.

Other choice grasses used in the meadow: Dark green Carex divulsa, "one of the best groundcover grases for meadows."Pennisetum 'Fairy Tails' P. 'Tall Tails.' Boer's Love Grass - the grass with glaucous blue fine-textured foliage. John’s new book, The American Meadow Garden (Timber Press, Nov. 2009) is illustrated with beautiful photographs by Saxon Holt. After reviewing the book recently, I expect it will become the go-to manual for professionals and keen gardeners.

The American Meadow Garden  on ... 
an inspiring resource.
Greenlee addresses the basics of grass ecology, explaining how grasses grow in different regions, so if you’re thinking about revamping an existing lawn, or creating a new planting with drought-tolerant grasses and companion plants, you'll find the book highly useful.


  1. Great post Alice. We are planning an ornamental grass section in our Learning Garden and will look to all sorts of resources to figure out what to plant.

  2. Hi AliceA~~ Beautiful gardens. I can almost hear the soft branches rustling in the breeze.

  3. Hi Alice

    Just beautiful. All that movement.

    I enlarged every pic and love the way the grasses carry you seamlessly on to landscape beyond.


  4. Hi Alice, this is a type of garden that draws me in like vacumn nozzle. The natural look, low maintenance and wildlife friendly features are so appealing. Grasses are so useful. The book will be investigated, I need a new one and Saxon Holt has never taken a photo that didn't delight. :-)

  5. J'ADORE John Greenlee! Had a total gardener crush on him when I first started gardening - he was SO nice and attentive and generous w/ his time and info whenever I'd visit his nursery. He has an allee of pomegranates that was a total revelation to me, underplanted with phormiums and beautiful small scale grasses.
    He is what a plant guru should be! I am so glad you are spotlighting him and his wonderful work ...

  6. Cheers to all my gardening buddies,

    Rosey, Grace, Heather, DP ... Pressed for time these days, but do so appreciate your comments!

    Janet, Please keep me posted on your 'Learning Garden' - want to hear more about this.

    Rob, You zeroed in my aim - Each shot was framed to capture that sense of taking in/moving toward a borrowed view of the landscape beyond. Of course that was John's intention: A distinctive element in successful garden design!

    Frances, Can I quote you!!! "Draws you in like a vacuum nozzle" - pitch perfect from a celebrated blogger like yourself. Saxon's photos are sublime, are they not!

    Germi Ma chère, John is absolutely 'crushable' & giving of his time and more - stories circulate about his generous acts, and I CAN ATTEST TO THE GREAT PARTIES HE THROWS... OOPS, didn't mean to shout, but I hope I get invited to another one :~D
    I always wanted to visit his So Call nursery, now you've piqued my interest with the allee of pomegranates!
    It's said that John's presence will be expanding at Cornerstone Sonoma - Here's hoping the future holds a full-scale Greenlee nursery and demo gardens on the property!!!

  7. I cannot WAIT to see the Late Show - always a fan of Greenlee's grass gardens there and they should be in their glory in a few weeks. I've even seen some of his more unusual grasses for sale at one of the pottery shops at Cornerstone - can't wait!! Thanks for the beautiful photos...

  8. What I love about John's meadows is that they are designed and yet as as testament to his incredible skill--they look as if they've always been there.

    Also having had the opportunity to meet with him, hear him speak and see a private garden design in Pasadena, I am a fan of the man as well as the designer.

    Thank you for writing about his book and his meadows...a must read for sure.

  9. Wonderful post. I'm so disappointed I'm missing the Late Show Gardens event :( Might just have to look into rescheduling.

    Next week I'll be giving away copies of the American Meadow Garden on my blog to kick-off a new website on lawn alternatives that's about to launch - but the book's not out yet, so I don't have any solid info. Nice to know I can link back to your site for folks who want the inside scoop!

  10. The grass blends beautifully into the landscape and gives a sense of nature to the place.

  11. Rebecca, Miss R, Susan, Wouldn't a tweet-up in the middle of John's meadow be simply to-die-for!

    Autumn Belle ...the design does indeed appear to be a seamless part of the natural landscape!

    Joanne, You might be swept away if you were to take a stroll along the paths and experience the atmosphere. Cheers!

  12. Brilliant post about the talented Mr. Greenlee. He uses such a clever combination of plants. Lovely photos with the foothills in the background.
    I definitely need to revamp something!

  13. RS, Greenlee's garden does ignite a gardener's imagination - talk about revamping!! I went bonkers this weekend, tearing out and redesigning an area of my garden. I'll suffer for it with aches and pains, I know, but it's so exciting to see the garden grow and change. I'll look forward to seeing what you're up to on the Red Studio site. Cheers!

  14. I'm enchanted by the number of very different gardens profiled here, and I'm especially taken with this one. I'm going to have to put his book on my "to buy" list. Thanks!

  15. I feel like I should be going to the Late Show Gardens, but it's not going to happen this weekend. It's just one weekend, right?

  16. Wild Flora, Greenlee's garden is a superb addition to the garden installations at Cornerstone Sonoma, and will be a highlight at The Late Show Gardens. John's book offers a treasure trove of resources.

    Chuck, Unfortunately the Late Show Gardens runs one weekend - Sept 18, 19, 20 - unless you can attend the gala Preview Party on Sept 17, this Thursday. I'll be there and can't wait!
    ........Let me know if you decide to attend.